Orioles blank Rays, but Yankees come back against Red Sox to maintain lead in AL East

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Rays righty James Shields racked up a franchise-high 15 strikeouts in a complete-game effort Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, but the Orioles were able to squeeze out a 1-0 victory thanks to a fourth-inning Chris Davis home run. It was one of only two hits that the Baltimore offense was able to muster in the game, but it provided all the scoring they would need.

The O’s Miguel Gonzalez was ace-like in his own right, punching out seven batters in 6 1/3 scoreless frames. And Jim Johnson closed it out with an easy ninth inning to earn his league-leading 51st save.

In New York, the Yankees trailed the Red Sox 3-1 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. But pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez hit a two-run homer to tie things up and then drove in Francisco Cervelli in the bottom of the 12th as the Bombers survived a minor scare and maintained their one-game lead in the AL East.

The race comes down to Wednesday. Game 162. In this wacky baseball season, it only seems right.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.